I’ve written all sorts of articles on gamemastering (GMing), and they can take a long time to read through. Some articles are useful in general, while others are useful under specific circumstances. Here’s a quick list of those things that I consider the most important points to remember. It’ll probably give you some idea of what my particular roleplaying biases are, as well, if you haven’t read any of the other articles yet:
- Do communicate with your players. This can solve a lot of problems before they even start.
- Do personalize your plots and game to involve the player characters (PCs). Integrate them into your world.
- Do prepare background material in preference to in-game scenes and speeches (flexible vs. fragile material).
- Do improvise (it isn’t as hard as it sounds).
- Do vary your plots, particularly at the beginning of your gaming run, if you want your players to understand that combat isn’t the solution to everything.
- Do pay attention to your players and make an effort to involve them in the game.
- Do think about your game before it starts: what mood do you want; what sort of game-play do you want; how will you encourage a coherent party; how long is the gaming run likely to go on; etc.
- Do allow your players to come up with interesting background material for their characters, and do make use of that material in your game.
- Don’t railroad the party into doing everything your way. Yes, this means that your precious plot might not come out exactly as planned. That’s okay. It’s the players’ game too.
- Don’t give your players reason not to trust you as a GM.
- Don’t look down on players who have different sensibilities than you do with respect to roleplaying. You might not want to roleplay with them, but that doesn’t make their way of doing things wrong, just wrong for you.
- Don’t run a game that you aren’t at least a little familiar with. Read through the rules before the game starts.
- Don’t punish players for cheating without explaining what you’re punishing them for. Otherwise they won’t learn anything.
- Don’t let your players run roughshod all over you. On the other hand, don’t be a tyrant. The key is to be firm while taking the needs of your players into account.